A Tale of Two Sweaters

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Every knitter knows “the sweater curse”: if you knit a sweater for somebody with whom you are in a romantic relationship before you marry them, your relationship is doomed. It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: for one thing, a sweater is a huge investment of time and energy, which might make the recipient uncomfortable. Furthermore, a sweater rarely comes out exactly perfect, which might cause the recipient to not want to wear it much, which might create tension in the relationship. The theory is that if you’re committed enough to each other enough to marry, then your relationship can stand the strain of a possibly-wonky sweater. Or else it’s magic. Who knows? What I know is that I flouted this ancient wisdom once in my youth, and I reaped the consequences. In my case, I think the actual sweater didn’t have any direct effect on the end of that relationship, but I was not fool enough to test the sweater curse twice. Though Pat had been asking me to knit him a sweater for years, I refused to do so until we were married. His marriage proposal, which was written down for me to read, ended with the words “now look at the sweaterless guy over there,” where he was kneeling with a ring.

So how could I do otherwise than to knit him a sweater immediately after we got married? I had to finish my brother’s blanket first, which you can read about in the previous post, but once that was done, this sweater was the first order of business.

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The pattern is Reece by Jane Ellison, from Queensland Collection Book 9 — yes, I had to track down this obscure print book to find the pattern that my husband wanted. That’s love, folks. He wanted something pretty plain and not flashy, but he was also fairly particular about what that meant, and there just aren’t as many mens’ sweater patterns out there as you would like. The pattern called for knitting the sleeves flat, though, which I hate and avoid whenever possible; I knit them in the round from the top down instead, just from measurements and math.

The yarn is KnitPicks Swish DK in the “dusk” colorway. The zipper came from Zipperstop, a website that will sell you a zipper in a custom length & color. I hadn’t intended the color of the zipper to be quite so much brighter than the yarn, but Pat decided he liked it that way. I also decided after about two minutes of trying to sew in the zipper myself that I would just pay a tailor $20 to have it professionally installed, which was better for everyone. I did manage to hand-sew in a zipper once, but it was on the sweater for He Who Shall Not Be Named, and maybe the less we can repeat that situation the better.

This past winter, I also knit my very first pullover:

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Cardigans tend to make more sense in southern California, but I do wear pullover sweaters in the winter, especially at night in our apartment where we tend not to run our ancient inefficient gas heater & just pull on layers of clothing and blankets. And I had loved Norah Gaughn’s Lempster since its debut in Knitty in 2013. I especially loved it in the original yarn, Berroco Abode, a thick-and-thin yarn with a lovely speckling effect — I just didn’t like any of the samples showing up on Ravelry in more conventional yarns nearly as much. However, when I decided to finally knit Lempster this past fall, I was dismayed to find that the original yarn had been discontinued. Fortunately, this had happened recently enough that I was still able to find it for sale at a variety of places; it was just hard to find sweater quantities in colors I liked. I couldn’t find the original blue colorway in sufficient quantities, but I eventually decided that the muted purple of the River colorway would also be very nice, and that’s what I settled on.

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I made a few modifications to the original: I knit the sleeves full-length, and I did the cable motif on the back also, as you can see here. This sweater is not for the faint of heart: in addition to the charts’ being complex, the construction (especially at the beginning) is really confusing, and in a few key places the directions are just plain wrong. The following Ravelers’ notes were key in helping me figure out what the heck I was doing: FuzzyPumpkin, Sophie7toes, Ephiphonora, and Handstitch. Another issue I had was that in blocking, this thing grew like 4 inches of length, which I ended up just unravelling. The Berroco Abode was super sticky and GREAT for unravelling without losing more stitches than you intended — which was, alas, something I had to do a lot in this project. I got to be an expert at fixing messed-up cable crosses several rows back without unravelling whole rows, which there really ought to be a knitters’ trophy (or at least a merit badge?) for.

But I really like how it came out, and the Berroco Abode makes a sweater that is lofty and lightweight while still being warm — it’s great for chilly California winter days, which is in fact when these photos were taken. But don’t worry: soon enough you’ll see me sweating in the summer heat while bravely sporting fall and winter wear for the sake of getting through my project backlog!

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Blanketed In Love

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So my brother got married early in 2015, and I spent most of that year knitting this blanket, which I presented to him & his wife at Christmas of that year as their belated wedding present. I’d known I wanted to knit them a blanket, but I didn’t pick out the pattern until about a month before their wedding, and as you can imagine, this thing was a huge amount of work! For their actual wedding, they got a card from me and a picture of the yarn with an “under construction” label. Here’s the whole finished object:

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The pattern is Hue Shift Afghan by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence; it’s a KnitPicks pattern. I knit it in KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Sport, and I followed the “Rainbow Version” color suggestions, though I had to substitute a few of the recommended colorways because they were out of stock. I also followed Mariangello’s directions to increase the size of the blanket to fit a queen-sized bed. (If you do this, be sure to buy more yarn than KnitPicks suggests, of course!) It still came out a little small for a queen-sized bed, though; here it is being just about adequate for a full-sized one:

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I loved this thing so much that it was reeeeeaaaallly hard to give up, and I just might make another one for us to keep one of these days! One thing that’s cool about knitting it is that you do it in pieces, so it never suffers from that huge-blanket problem where you have to keep the whole thing in your lap at once while you’re working on it. You make the squares in strips, and these add up to 4 separate large squares which you eventually have to seam together:

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That’s the only seaming you have to do, though. After this, you pick up stitches at the edges to do the border. As you can see, there are eleventy-billion ends to weave in when you’re done. You can carry one color up per column, but each square generates two new ends to weave in for the other color. 😦

I over-purchased the yarn because I was terrified of running out, and I ended up with about a ball and a half left of each color. So I made a baby blanket for my friends Jackie and Robin! (Jackie made my wedding dress, as you will recall from my last post.)

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I’m pretty proud of this, because I made up the pattern myself, using math to figure out how to get the most out of my remaining yarn. It’s knit in strips, and I attached each strip to the next one as I went by picking up an edge stitch from the previous strip to avoid having to do seaming later. Totally seamless, baby!

Here it is with my body & bookshelves for scale:

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I deliberately made it pretty big for a “baby” blanket, because it’s totally not machine washable, so I figured the parents might not want to actually give it to their kid until she’s old enough to keep her bodily fluids inside her body where they belong. Also I wanted to use up all of that dang yarn!

Since I have so very much ground to cover in order to get caught up, I’m going to share with you one more blanket that I’ve made while I’ve been gone. This is a much smaller baby blanket, knit in machine-washable yarn:

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I knit this for my friends Tia and Reid in freeform log-cabin style, a blanket-construction method I fell in love with a few years ago, when… holy smokes, it turns out I never shared the finished object from this project with you, either! Okay, I’ll show you that in just a minute! Anyway, the above blanket was knit in Berroco Comfort held double on huge needles, to create a very thick and squishy blanket that could also work as a playmat for “tummy-time,” something that I gather babies are into. (I am very childless, as you may have figured out by now.)

One more blanket, then! As the link in the above paragraph explains, in mid-2013 I inherited some vintage 1970s yarn from my mom’s basement, and I started a freeform log cabin project with it since I wasn’t really sure how much yarn I actually had. Here’s the finished product, which I must have completed sometime in 2014:

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It’s got some creases in it from being folded up on our couch; this is very much a workhorse blanket that keeps me warm when we’re watching TV in the winter. Look how handsomely it goes with our new turquoise sofa!

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I knit those pillows on the sides, too, natch. #allkniteverything

I’ve Been Busy

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A funny thing happened in 2015 when I swore I’d get back to this blog: I got married. And planning a wedding, it turns out, eats up a lot of time. My job keeps me pretty busy during the school year as well, and once you get behind in a blog, it gets harder and harder to catch up. But I’ve got a stack of knits that I “can’t” wear because they haven’t been photographed for the blog yet, which is profoundly stupid, so I’m going to try to get this thing on its feet again!

So let’s start with my wedding shawl, pictured above. The pattern is Serangoon by the brilliant Asa Tricosa, and the yarn is “Bloom” from Reywa Fibers in the “Picnic” colorway. I was never one of those girls who daydreamed details of my wedding my entire life — to the dismay of my wedding planner, who would ask me things like “what do you want the flowers to look like?” and get an answer like “I dunno, nice?” — but I will admit to having picked out a wedding shawl pattern at least a year or two before my boyfriend actually proposed. The minute Serangoon hit the internet, I knew I loved it so much that I would have to literally get married in it. Just look at that gorgeous border!

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The turquoise color I didn’t decide on until I walked into the yarn store and was seduced by Bloom’s 50% yak / 50% silk deliciousness. I was already pretty sure that I didn’t want a white wedding shawl, because I wanted to be able to wear it ever again, and this yarn purchase ended up dictating the color that my whole bridal ensemble revolved around. Behold:

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I should also mention that my dress was sewn by my friend Jackie, who was one of my bridesmaids. She also sewed her own dress, and my other bridesmaid Kit wore a handmade dress also, sewn by her mom. This wasn’t particularly planned, but as a craftsperson I thought it was pretty awesome. (I personally suck at sewing, btw.) Here is my lovely bridal party; my bridesman Michael was, alas, not wearing a handsewn suit:

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That’s Kit on the left, and Jackie on the right. Michael is the one in the suit. Aren’t those flowers nice? After forcing me to make a Pinterest board to express some preferences, my infinitely patient and magical wedding planner (Ashley from Thread Events) went to the LA flower market on the morning of the wedding and made those bouquets herself.

Okay, fine, I didn’t intend this to be a “look at my wedding” post, but now it feels weird to show you my bridal party and not my groom, so here you go:

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My now-husband Pat has been responsible for nearly all the photos on this blog for forever, so please give him a round of applause. Also, yes, those are dinosaur cake toppers. We had a dinosaur-themed wedding. I’m now realizing I need to show you even more wedding photos, because the one wedding craft I did besides my shawl was to spraypaint a million dinosaurs gold for the centerpieces:

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And the favors:

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My brother also got married in 2015, about six months before I did, so I naturally I knit Serangoon’s sister shawl for his wedding: Tiong Bahru. I don’t have any pictures of it in action at his wedding, so I made Pat take these photos yesterday:

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It’s got that same lovely edge as Serangoon, but it’s in a shawl rather than a wrap form. Unfortunately, I no longer have any idea what yarn I used. My husband is trained to Never Throw Away A Yarn Label, No Matter Where You Find It, but I’ve checked my several stashes of them and can’t find anything that looks like it was for this yarn. I think it was a laceweight alpaca blend?

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I didn’t feel like putting on my fancy sister-of-the-groom dress for this quick photoshoot, but this shawl did match that dress super well:

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Just use your imagination, I guess!

Okay, so I swear on an imaginary stack of holy books that I am going to work over the next few weeks on blogging my backlog of projects. Showing off knitwear on the internet is half of why we make it, right? See you soon!

Xmas Socks

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Sure, February may seem a little late to be showing you my Xmas knitting, but I’m waaaay behind — there’s stuff from fall and even late summer that you haven’t seen yet! These are the socks I knit for Pat; the pattern is Jeeves by Sarah Wolf. I discovered a couple of years ago that DK-weight socks are a great way to make knitting for his giant feet go significantly faster, and it also allows me to provide him with heavier-weight socks than he can buy at a store. His Blackberry Waffle Socks wore out this year, and while I can darn them, I haven’t gotten around to it yet — knitting a new pair is more fun!

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It turns out there aren’t very many patterns for DK-weight socks out there at all — I may have to write one next year! This one worked well, though — it has a simple, unisex design that’s visually interesting. I ended up making some of the same mods that I did to the original Blueberry Waffle pattern to accommodate both my desire to knit at a tighter gauge and Pat’s wide feet — I knit these on US 2s, not US 4s, and I added a stitch repeat, which I believe was 8 extra stitches.

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What is that delicious red yarn, you say? Why, it’s Madelinetosh Tosh DK, in the Tart colorway! I’ve always loved this rich, dark red — I’ve actually been working on a sweater in it, but I had a sleeve disaster at some point over the summer and put it aside. I suppose I ought to pick it up and finish it before the end of the cold weather, but first I have to finish a project for a friend, and then I have a rather large wedding present for my brother to work on. Shh, don’t tell! Anyway, I bought some additional Tart for this project rather than dip into my sweater supply, because I still have faith that I’m going to finish that sweater someday. I thought this red was an inspired choice for ManSocks, because it’s a very colorful departure from the usual grays and browns, while still being pretty manly. Pat has a bright red bathrobe that matches these, and I actually got him the pajama pants you see here pretty recently — dark blue and dark red are some of his favorites. As you can see, these socks are fitting in his sleepwear wardrobe perfectly.

There will be more before long, I hope! I have a lot of catching up to do!

Long Time, No Blog!

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Sorry it’s been so long since I posted here — my new job has kept me too busy to document my projects, but rest assured that I’ve been knitting! This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of catch-up posts, but once the new semester gets underway it may be difficult for me to post again. But that’s what summer break is for, right? That and margaritas.

Above I’ve showing off a shawl called The Way from Brighton designed by Joji Locatelli. It’s the sort of simple, geometric, textured design that appeals to me a lot these days, but this was in fact a yarn-driven project from the start.

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I was down in San Diego getting trained to teach AP Language & Composition over the summer, and in my free time I did what I tend to do when traveling by myself: hit up local breweries, vegetarian restaurants, and yarn stores. I visited both the Stone and Ballast Point breweries on that trip, which were both pretty epic! I forget the name of the place I got this yarn from — it was pretty tiny and out-of-the-way. The yarn is Swans Island Organic Washable DK in “Aubergine,” a dark, warm purple shade that I’ve been into lately and that turns out to be pretty close to Marsala, the newly-unveiled Pantone Color of the Year for 2015 — that’s right, I’ve apparently got my finger on the pulse of color-trends! (See matching skirt, purchased entirely independently, in the photo below.)

I was so captivated by the color and squish of this yarn that on the spot in the store I whipped out my smartphone and looked through my Ravelry queue for patterns calling for DK-weight yarn, and The Way From Brighton jumped out as a match made in heaven. And so it was!

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This is a pretty easy project once you get the hang of the bobbles, and it goes really quick after the first row (which is nothing but bobbles!). I highly recommend it!

While we’re here, let’s talk a minute about another accomplishment — this autumn, I finally taught myself to Navajo-ply! Like most knitting- & spinning-related things, it turns out to not be nearly as difficult as it looks. I was very puzzled by the youtube videos I watched at first, but once I started actually doing it I realized that it’s in fact very easy: you’re just making giant, arm-length chain stitches and twisting them up. Here’s the result:

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The fiber is from Capistrano Fiber Arts, a handpainted merino/silk blend that I picked up years ago at the Torrance Fiber Festival. It had such high variegation that I thought normal plying would muddy up the colors too much; I didn’t want the barber-pole effect, but long repeats of single-colored strands, and that’s just what Navajo plying does for you, as you can hopefully see here!

I’ll try my best to catch up with posting some of my other autumn projects here soon! I’ve actually gotten behind on blocking as well as blogging, so I’m excited to see my projects finally get all the way finished and come to life!

Handspun Starshower

IMG_5958Sometimes a pattern comes along at exactly the right time. Hilary Smith Callis published Starshower in February, right around the time I was finishing spinning up a batch of yarn that I quickly realized was perfect for it!

IMG_5526The yarn was spindle-spun from a gorgeous undyed 60% merino / 20% yak / 20% silk blend from A Verb for Keeping Warm – I picked up a bundle of it the last time I was in their store, and found myself completely unable to put it down. I ended up buying 4 oz, and spinning it into roughly 500 yards of a light fingering weight. Here’s one 2-oz hank:

IMG_5856Starshower and this yarn seemed like a match made in heaven — the nubbly texture of the cowl works with rather than against the texture of handspun yarn, and it has some drape and shine because of the yak and silk. I’m thrilled with the final product!

IMG_5954I’m a fan of this cowl-concept that Callis has been exploring lately, where they drape in the front like a shawl, but are joined in back like a cowl, so they stay put much better than shawls worn scarfwise like this. Here’s the back:

IMG_5966This also adds some different wear options, as you can see here:

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Lovely!

Gaea’s Wrap

IMG_5927Hello, and sorry for the long absence! Work got crazy for a couple of months there, but now I have the summer off and I can catch up on posting my backlog of projects! What you see here is a freeform wrap that I knit for my friend Gaea for her wedding in April. Gaea is very much a free spirit, and it came to me in a flash about a month before the wedding that (a) I ought to knit something for her, and (b) it ought to be something out of my brain and heart and intuition rather than something from a pattern. So I went to my stash and pulled out all the greens and blues, since those are the colors that come to mind when I think of her:

IMG_5857Not quite all of these made the cut — sorry, lime-green Fun Fur — but most of them ended up in there somewhere. I cast on an unholy number of stitches — north of 300, I’m pretty sure — and went to town. The wrap is mostly garter stitch, seed stitch, bird’s-eye lace, and shell stitch (or whatever that wavy drop-stitch thing is called — I don’t have my stitch dictionary in front of me). The result was a ginormous wrap that I loved to pieces and managed to remember to model before wrapping it up for gift-giving:

IMG_5941SO HUGE. SO AWESOME.

And here it is in another configuration with me looking a little drunk, which it’s entirely possible that I was:

IMG_5938That dress is the one I wore to the wedding, by the way. It was a fantastically freaky potluck Burning Man wedding at a park in San Francisco. So much fun!

Over the next few days / weeks I’ll fill you in on what else I’ve been knitting since February — stay tuned!